ANTONIO MARGARITO spent 14 years working for the recognition that comes with being the world's top welterweight, a distinction he finally earned after defeating Miguel Cotto last July. But on Jan. 24 Margarito not only lost his title to Shane Mosley on a ninth-round TKO in Los Angeles, he also may have irreparably tarnished his reputation when a prefight inspection revealed a plasterlike substance in his wraps.
Last week the California Athletic Commission suspended Margarito and trainer Javier Capetillo pending a Feb. 10 hearing. Federal law prohibits any fighter suspended by a state commission for unsportsmanlike conduct from competing in another state, placing his planned rematch with Cotto—scheduled for this summer—in jeopardy.
Margarito was forced to rewrap his hands after a commission official found the foreign substance, which was sent to the California Department of Justice for analysis. One of his managers claimed that the wraps were made of legal gauze that had been hardened by the humidity. Even if that explanation satisfies the California commission, it will not stop the questions being asked about one of the division's most potent punchers. Representatives of at least two of Margarito's past victims—Kermit Cintron and Joshua Clottey—have wondered aloud if Margarito had something in his gloves for their fights.
Emanuel Steward, who was working Cintron's corner when Margarito dropped him in the sixth round of their fight last April, says he doesn't think Margarito used anything illegal against his fighter. "It wasn't one big punch that beat Kermit," says Steward. " Margarito just wore him down." But Steward acknowledges that Margarito is going to have a hard time convincing the rest of the boxing community. "I'd hate to see him slandered," says Steward. "But if [the plaster allegations are] true, it will taint everything he does for the rest of his life."